I CAN FEEL my sweat-encased fingers stick to the keys. The rapid pounding of my heart resounds in my head. I hear the powerful boom of the woman’s voice as we land the winning hit, “Victory!”
Gaming is my life. My world.
Without it, I’d probably go back to doing nothing but listening to my mother’s loud, pitchy lectures. Gaming has opened me up to the world. It has helped me find a community of people to connect with.
Gaming has brought me into a world where everyone supports each other, most of the time, and can share experiences. A world where everyone is connected.
Before, I’d get home from school, watch Anime on the computer, eat, sleep and repeat.
My mother used to say to me, “Get off the computer before your eyes go blind,” which was quite the jinx, because I ended up getting glasses.
Sometimes I’d play soccer for my school team, the Community School of Excellence Stars, otherwise known as the CSE Stars. We actually did quite well, winning 10 of 10 games, but I wasn’t devoted because I was lazy.
In the end, school became irrelevant to me. So did people. I didn’t care about my grades, my friends or even what my family thought of me. I was on the path toward depression and seclusion, and yet, I still did not care.
Eventually I began to drastically gain weight, jumping to 110 pounds from 93 pounds within a year. People started to notice, specifically some of the young boys, or as I used to call them, “wild beasts.” They would call me “fat” in Hmong or “double chin” in English.
Those words and my indifference were keeping me from social activities. They painfully and slowly drained my life. My confidence was basically a game of “Where’s Waldo?” I’d constantly have to look for it, find it, hold onto it and find it again with the flip of a new page.
My siblings and I were not as close as I wished we were. My mother remarried when I was 14, and my step-brothers, siblings and I found it hard to relate to each other.
That is, until I started to play Black Ops II on PlayStation 3. BO2 is a first-person shooter game, created by Treyarch in 2012. My step-brothers and siblings were always playing BO2, but I never glanced at it.
But on an uneventful Friday, I decided to give BO2 a chance, just because my brothers seemed to enjoy it so much. After I started playing and really immersed myself in the art of BO2, my siblings and I started to interact and became more comfortable with each other. We could argue without ever actually getting angry.
We would joke about how bad each other’s skills were while also banding together to fight other teams.
Looking back, we might have seemed a little aggressive, or even violent, but it was all for the love of the game. Gaming brought us closer together as a family.
A good friend of mine introduced me to League of Legends (LOL), a multiplayer online battle arena computer game created by Riot Games. I discovered a large portion of my eighth-grade class that was part of the LOL community.
The day I started playing LOL, that community embraced me. I made friends I could trust, and they actually trusted me, too. Friends that included me in their “clique,” friends I could talk to over the microphone while in-game, friends who would support me in times of need.
We played LOL, went out to eat ice cream, played poker, competed in sports – and we still do to this day.
It also brought me closer to members of my family that were part of the LOL community, such as my brother, Dexter, and my four uncles, Toua, Kongh, Kaiser and Chai. We then had something in common to talk about, which led to more interaction and communication that created a stronger bond.
These bonds changed my monochrome life to a vibrant fluorescent one. They were the foundation of my transformation.
After I started gaming, I became more confident in myself and began to enjoy school again. My communication skills with other students started to improve. I made friends outside of the LOL community. I even lost all the weight I gained in the past year. I overdosed on confidence and found a close-knit community. I never wanted to stop gaming.
My mother often lectured me saying, “Don’t play so many games; it’s bad for you,” or “Stop playing games and cook something. You’re older now and need to learn.”
Of course, I would get angry at her for belittling my world, but then I would remember who I was before I started gaming. It was a hard time in my life.
Some people disconnect themselves from life, and all they need is something to reconnect them. For me, that reconnection was gaming, and I’m grateful for that.